Off you go on holiday. Can you require an employee to take holiday?

Statutory holiday leave is an entitlement not an obligation. If it is not taken then it is lost. It cannot be paid in lieu nor can it be carried forward to another year. There are some exceptions to these points, for example if any employee leaves without taking their full entitlement and in some circumstances surrounding illness. Unless covered by legislation it is a good policy to insist all holiday is taken in the holiday year where it is accrued. I once discovered an employee with 48 days rolled-over holiday – he must have been planning an early retirement!

Roll-over or not, there could be good reasons to insist the employee takes an annual holiday. Embezzlement is sometimes discovered when accountants take holiday. IT employees have also been found to be working for others (or themselves) in their employers’ time. Holidays provide a good opportunity for investigation, although it would be wise to have grounds for suspicion first (see below).

In general, we might reasonably assume employees can be persuaded to take holiday. Insisting holiday is taken is also straightforward if there is a requirement in the employment contract. You might have an annual shutdown or close for Christmas, for example. There is also an argument for making holiday explicitly contractual for employees who might be able to compromise the company in some way.  In the absence of a specific clause it may still be possible to rely on holiday as a reasonable implied term of the employment. However, once you reach the point of needing to exert such pressure, you may have grounds for suspicion due to this alone. Certainly I would be interested to know an employee’s reasons for refusing to take a holiday. If the reasons are understandable reasons, you might let the matter go. But employees need to recognise that you cannot pay the holiday in lieu – therefore this would be odd.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act controls what you may and may not do in terms of covert investigation. Blanket investigation (for example, if there are no grounds for suspicion) of internet access may contravene the law and if intrusion into private life is likely to take place, then employees should know in advance that matters at work (such as e-mails) cannot be regarded as private.

This Blog is for general guidance; always take specific advice before acting in any particular circumstances.

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